Vulnerable palates: How Saisons brings people together

Vulnerable palates: How Saisons brings people together

A great meal will always bring people together. No matter your race, gender, political views, background, etc… Simple well-cooked dishes around the table is where we all meet and get along. Mouth watering delicacies make us all vulnerable to the idea of giving in to the flavours about to hit our palate. That vulnerability to food gave birth to the idea of Saisons.

The Saisons dinners are intimate seasonal events staged in unique locations. Each season, a chef is invited to explore his favourite ingredients through his cooking. Each event’s multi-course menu will highlight what’s in season in and around Québec at that time of year and feature foraged ingredients, along with unique products from local producers and growers.

We had the pleasure to speak with founder Mayssam Samaha about the idea behind Saisons.

How did Saisons start?

It all started with a personal party I organized for my boyfriend. A chef friend of ours cooked for the guests who brought wine that they presented during the evening. It was such a fun night that I decided to take the concept further and make it public!

Tell us about the team behind Saisons?

I’m the founder but I’m also a food/travel blogger and the founder of Will Travel for Food. I also work in social media and all of my clients are in the food industry. Janice is a food blogger, a recipe developer, food stylist and photographer. She also just happens to have a PhD in Chemistry, so her fabulous baking blog, Kitchen Heals Soul, is filled with fun scientific tidbits.

Can you tell us a bit about the very first event?

Our first event was with chef John Winter Russell of Restaurant Candide. We hosted it at the Birri Brothers stand at the Jean Talon Market. We set the table among all the stalls heavy with the fall harvest. We only had 12 guests at that first event, so it was very intimate. John cooked a delicious 6 course dinner and the evening worked its magic. We had “sommelières” and food bloggers among the guests and everyone had a great time. New friendships were forged, which often happens at our events.

You work with a number of incredibly talented chefs, how do those partnerships come about?

Because of my blog, I know a lot of the chefs in the city so I usually approach them with the idea and almost all of them say yes right away. They love the idea! It’s a challenge for them, it gets them out of the kitchen and it makes them think of cooking in a different way since they don’t have a full kitchen at a Saisons event.

Location is also a big part of the event.

We’re always on the lookout for nice spaces whether on social media or in real life. There are so many great spaces in Montreal and we’ve become experts at transforming them into temporary, intimate restaurants for an evening.

Who attends these events? And what do you do if you have more applications than spaces?

Everyone! We don’t have a specific profile, except that all of our guests are food and wine lovers. Saisons guests are excited about the uniqueness of each event, about the food and about having that proximity to the chef. We’ve had instances where we’ve had more requests than spaces. We actually added a whole night at one point because we had enough requests for an additional night. Otherwise, unfortunately, space is very limited and that’s what makes these events unique. However, people who sign up to on our newsletter get a 24 hour advance notice of ticket sales so that’s one way of always guaranteeing a spot!

Guests are asked to bring a bottle of wine to the event. What is your go-to wine in a pinch?

I personally like heavy red wines but they don’t go with everything. A dry Riesling or a light Pinot Noir are great, they go with a lot of dishes and are very easy to drink. There are so many great wines out there! I really like Société Oenopole’s Naoussa. In fact, any wine by Oenopole or Rézin are almost a guaranteed hit and they’re sold at the SAQ.

All photos by Jeff Frenette Photography.

Find out more about Saisons on their website.

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